Who owns your Country?
Posted on February 6, 2015
What do the following have in common? The Scottish Referendum last year and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP ) being negotiated between the EU and the USA at the moment?
Underlying both of them there is the issue of who makes the decisions in democratic countries and also for whose benefit are these countries being run.
The Scottish Referendum was a plebiscite held to decide not just how a country is run but what the geographical area and make up that country would have. There was a large sentiment in favour of independence and quite rightly these views were acknowledged and the referendum of all the citizens in that area held.
The TTIP is a trade agreement that one way or another will result in big business taking democratic governments to court for citizens making democratic decisions that they don’t like. There will undoubtedly be some economic benefits to TTIP but a prime component is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) that ultimately puts businesses on a par with democratic governments. These allow companies to sue governments if those government’s policies cause a loss of profit. Examples of this mechanism already exist in other trade agreements.Â The Australian government, after debates inside and outside parliament, decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets, marked only with health warnings. But, using a trade agreement Australia struck with Hong Kong, the tobacco company Philip Morris has sued the Australians for hundreds of millions of dollars.
We need to go back to basics on this. The whole point of a democratic system of government is to allow the people who live in a country to decide how it should be run and for it to be run in the resident population’s best interests. We need to refocus our political world around the individuals, the voters, the people who are supposed to be the prime beneficiaries of the arrangement. The county we live in is collectively owned by all of us. This is something we tend to forget just as many seem to forget that our government’s money is our money. It isn’t originating from some separate source it is generated by tax payers and belongs to them.
Focusing on the concept of ownership is important in itself. There seem to be two main approaches to this issue:
A nation exists and is legitimate because it has a historic right to its territory.
A nation exists because is has an identifiable population group with common interests and wishes who own some territory because that is where they have been born or lived most of their lives.
Most nations have both elements. Take the UK. We have the first through our history. The second is also true because once you are here it is relatively easy to become British over the space of a generation or two. If you look at the current problems in the Ukraine it isn’t so clear. Much of the pro-Russian population is relatively recent 20th century immigration from Russia itself. Can they be said to have as much ownership and say over their area of the land they occupy as the rest of the population. The answer to that is rather important if you consider countries like Israel were the vast majority of the population are even newer or, at the other extreme, the Falklands which the Argentinians have not owned since the 1830s (end even then that was a rather fluid state of affairs) but passionately claim it has always been and still is theirs even though only a minute percentage of the current population agrees with them.
There is no easy answer to this that will be accepted by everyone but from the perspective of a truly democratic organisation like UKIP the rights of the current owners have to be paramount and that must be the overwhelming directive. This doesn’t solve issues like that of Israel/Palestine unfortunately. There are still Palestinians alive who remember living in what is now Israel who still cannot return to their homes. They still hold ‘key’ demonstrations in Lebanon where they assemble and wave the keys to their old homes in Israel to try and remind the world of what has happened to them. Hopefully some arrangement will be made during their lifetimes that allows them to become settled residents back home but the sad fact of the matter is that the longer the current stalemate continues the more they will become Lebanese and the firmer the Israeli claim to what was their land.
Once we have agreed on who owns the country it naturally follows that the democratic rights of the ‘owners’ include deciding who else can also become owners. i.e. who can immigrate. Obviously, this is interesting take on a current conundrum.
If you look at politics from this angle you can start to see that our county and government has lost its way. The interests of the individuals that are the owners seem to have been overtaken by the self-protecting interests of big businesses. The recent news that Apple now has £102 billion hidden away in tax havens carefully put out of reach of any government’s tax system is a good example. Companies are running rings around democratic governments. Russell Brand was mocked by many for suggesting that companies over a certain size should be forced to become worker co-operatives but actually the suggestion does focus on a problem we are currently struggling with. A few large companies and rich individuals own a massive proportion of the wealth and with the addition of TTIP this is definitely not going to change for the better Oxfam believes that by 2020 1% of the worlds population will own 50% of the wealth. That sort of imbalance cannot be good for anybody in the long term.
Government policy should be focused on improving the lot of the individuals, the country’s owners, if necessarily favouring them over the the richer, larger, elements. Policies like the following are required:
Lower taxation levels for smaller businesses than for larger businesses.
Reduced employment regulation for small businesses.
A higher minimum wage for larger businesses than small (so that no one working for a large business has to claim low income benefits like tax credits to have a living wage).
The break up of large businesses into smaller fragments when they get to levels of undue dominance and influence (something the USA used be very good at). The moment something becomes too big to fail we know they have gone too far.
Scrap agreements like the TTIP that have Investor-State Dispute Settlements.
Ultimately the the citizen must be prioritised and put back at the centre of all concepts of a nation’s power and ownership.